PALO ALTO, Calif. – Jim Atwell, a former global managing partner of private equities at PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, in February joined Summit Partners to source and originate technology deals, said Walter Kortschak, a managing partner at the venture firm (VCJ, November 1999, page 40).
Atwell, who helped more than 40 technology companies hold initial public offerings at his previous job, became Summit’s eleventh general partner.
“Jim is well connected and has a terrific network of CEO contacts in the technology industry and in Silicon Valley,” Kortshak said.
While at Coopers & Lybrand, now known as PricewaterhouseCoopers, Atwell spent more than a decade providing Summit with advice on how to structure deals involving technology companies and also worked with various other venture capital firms. While he worked on the service side, Atwell was responsible for structuring deals, due diligence and compliance work, such as audits and consulting on tax issues. He said he decided to cross over to VC last year to get more involved in helping build companies.
“I felt like I wasn’t in the game,” Atwell said. “I was sort of in the circle – I knew people and people knew me, but I wasn’t really there. The platform provided by Summit brings me closer to the heart of the game.”
Atwell estimated he would spend 75% of his time on deal sourcing, with the remainder devoted to structuring deals. Summit focuses on growth-stage technology investments, preferring to avoid co-investing with other venture firms. “We look for companies that are undergoing a strategic inflection point – maybe they want to add additional management talent or seek some more liquidity – and want a partner to help them conquer the next step,” Kortshak said.
Atwell worked his way up at Coopers, first joining in 1983 as a senior associate, being promoted to partner seven years later, and then heading the firm’s West Coast technology group in 1992. In 1994, he became the firm’s managing partner in charge of the San Jose, Calif. and Menlo Park, Calif. offices, and in 1996, he was elected to the firm’s board of directors. He became the head of PricewaterhouseCooper’s private equities group two years ago.
Making the Switch
Once Atwell leaked word of his desire for a career change, there was no shortage of interest: he had five offers from various venture firms. Summit, however, had the right profile for his background, and the firm made an offer he said he could not refuse.
Summit expects to raise a new fund later this year, said Kortshak, declining to provide a target size for the vehicle. The firm currently is investing the $1.1 billion Summit V fund, which closed in March 1998 (VCJ, April 1998, page 10).
Atwell does not foresee any major differences between his new job and old role, having spent 17 years trying to recruit clients for Coopers & Lybrand’s audit, tax and consulting services. “Now I will work that network and will invest money into these companies in addition to time and energy,” he said.